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On April 4, 2010, at 1257 central daylight time, a Stutesman RV-6, N4024K, was substantially damaged upon impact into Lake Balmorhea, Balmorhea, Texas. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant of the airplane was fatally injured. The airplane's departure and destination points are not known.
According to witness statements, the airplane was observed flying in the area surrounding Lake Balmorhea. Approximately 10 minutes prior to the accident, a motorist westbound on Interstate 10 (I-10) called 9-1-1 and reported seeing an airplane matching the description of the accident airplane flying low, possibly attempting to land on the interstate. The driver reported he was at mile marker 201, which was approximately 7.6 miles northwest of Lake Balmorhea. Eyewitnesses to the crash reported seeing the airplane flying at a low altitude and a slow airspeed arriving over the lake from the west before making a left turn as to head towards the north. The witnesses observed the airplane descending during the left turn before it impacted the water.
The pilot, age 77, held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single engine and multi-engine land. Additionally, he held single engine flight instructor certificate, which expired July 31, 1990. A second class medical certificate was issued on January 21, 2009, with restrictions that the pilot must wear corrective lenses and possess glasses for near and interim vision.
The pilot's logbook was not recovered for examination. On the last application for a medical certificate, the pilot reported having accumulated over 20,000 flight hours, with 60 hours in the preceding 6 months.
The two-seat side by side, low wing, fixed landing gear, kit-built RV-6 airplane was manufactured in 2002 and had an Experimental-Amateur built airworthiness certificate. The airplane was powered by a normally aspirated, 160-horsepower, Lycoming O-320-B3B engine driving a metal 2-bladed Hartzell HC C2YL-16F propeller. The airframe log book was not recovered. A partially filled out maintenance log book was recovered and the last conditional inspection was on January 30, 2008, at a recorded tachometer time of 620.8 hours.
At 1246, an automated weather reporting station located at the Pecos Municipal Airport (KPEQ), Pecos, Texas, reported winds from 260 degrees at 14 knots gusting to 18 knots, visibility 10 miles, with clear skies.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane was fragmented and completely submerged in Lake Balmorhea; the lake is at an elevation of 3,186 feet mean sea level. Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) divers assisted in recovery of the airplane. Due to limited visibility, the divers were unable to locate and recover the right wing. The pilot was reported to have flown with a global positioning unit (GPS) to aid in navigation; the GPS device was not recovered. The wreckage was examined by a responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector. No pre-impact anomalies were noted with the airframe. The wreckage was recovered to a local facility for further examination. On April 27, 2010, the engine was examined by an investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board with technical assistance from a representative of Lycoming Engines. No pre-impact anomalies were noted with the engine. It was noted that blade curling was consistent with the propeller being driven at the time of water impact.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On April 6, 2010, an autopsy was performed on the pilot by a medical examiner for the county of El Paso, Texas, as authorized by the Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Reeves County, Texas. No significant finding were discovered during the autopsy. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death the result of massive multiple injuries. The manner of death was ruled an accident.
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report was negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide,and ethanol. The toxicology did note the presence of the following substances:
0.008 (ug/ml, ug/g) Diphenhydramine detected in Blood
Ibuprofen detected in Urine
57.03 (ug/ml, ug/g) Salicylate detected in Urine